Sweetwater County Sheriff Mike Lowell issued a statement today concerning the Sheriff’s Office animal control policies.
“Due to recent budget constraints placed on us that were beyond our control, we can no longer pick up dogs or cats that are simply ‘at large’ out in the county, as was once our policy,” Lowell said. “We are now down to a single animal control officer to cover over 10,000 square miles.”
He said the Sheriff’s Office handled just under 700 animal calls in 2016 and nearly 500 so far in 2017.
County officers will still respond to animal-at-large reports, Lowell explained, and will work to find the animal’s owner. Strays are often collared and tagged, or are carrying an implanted “chip,” which makes owner identification possible.
“If an animal is vicious and/or poses a threat of any kind, we’ll impound it,” Lowell explained. “That’s a public safety issue. But we cannot impound simple strays; the money is just not there.”
As a result of budget cuts, the Sheriff’s Office has lost 11 positions and $1,500,000 in funding. “Services that were once routine for us will now longer be possible,” Lowell said. “We would be happy to restore them if the funding once again became available.”